Ajit Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader who took oath as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's deputy in a stunning twist this morning, has been removed as leader of the NCP's legislative party.
The action was taken shortly after NCP chief Sharad Pawar indicated that his nephew Ajit Pawar had gone rogue and said that he had taken a "personal decision" not supported by the party.
On Saturday evening, Jayant Patil was chosen as Ajit Pawar's replacement at a meeting of the NCP legislative party.
Ajit Pawar reportedly handed over letters of support from all 54 NCP MLAs to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari before being sworn in.
The 60-year-old had been part of efforts to form a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance and had attended most meetings with his uncle over the past few days.
Even last night, Ajit Pawar had attended the first joint meeting of the Sena, NCP and Congress. According to the Sena's Sanjay Raut, Ajit Pawar's "body language" had been suspicious and he had vanished shortly afterwards, with his phone unavailable. Ajit Pawar's cousin Supriya Sule, the daughter of Sharad Pawar, said in WhatsApp messages that she felt "betrayed" and her family and party had split.
Sharad Pawar described his nephew's decision an act of indiscipline and said he and other MLAs who had switched sides would face action under the anti-defection law.
The NCP chief asserted he was not aware whether Ajit Pawar had decided to support the BJP out of fear of investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. He also rejected speculation that he had gone for self-preservation because of a rivalry with Supriya Sule.
Ajit Pawar was named in September in the multi- crore Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank case involving the alleged swindling of funds.
In 2014, he was forced to quit as Deputy Chief Minister in the NCP-Congress government when allegations linked to a Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam erupted.
A year before, he had caused a huge uproar when, in a flippant response to question on acute water scarcity in Maharashtra, he had said: "If there is no water in the dam...Should we urinate into it?" He later put out a public apology.
Ajit Pawar was minister of state for key portfolios like water resources, rural soil conservation development, power and planning.